Photo of Duff Brenna on book tour in Bend, Oregon Cover of Murdering the Mom, a memoir by Duff Brenna Cover of Minnesota Memoirs, short stories by Duff Brenna Cover of The Book of Mamie, a novel by Duff Brenna

“That distance thing: I hadn’t thought of that before. Actually, my mom was always referring to herself as “the mom.” “...I am the mom who works her ass off every damn day...and when the mom comes home and wants an orange she should be able to have one...” I don’t detect any distance in her remark, however. Still, it does sort of work in an unintentional way. Freud would be pleased, I think.”

—Duff Brenna, commenting on 11 July 2012 in response to
Dennis Moore’s review in East County Magazine

Reviews: Murdering the Mom

5-Star Review at, 29 June 2012:
“A Wonderful Memoir”

In Murdering the Mom: A Memoir, Brenna reaches deep into the darkest recesses of the human psyche. All too often parents treat their children, the very ones they’re supposed to love most and protect, with anger and selfishness, violence and neglect, and Brenna, the child, is indeed a victim of circumstance. But Brenna, the man, is not. No one escapes this world unscathed, but in Brenna’s case it’s something of a miracle, given his upbringing, that this memoir wasn’t written from Death Row. With great skill, insight, wisdom, introspection, and above all a sense of humanity and forgiveness, a brilliant writer transcends the tragic and turns this powerful, raw, heartfelt story into the finest art.

James Brown, author of The Los Angeles Diaries and This River

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5-Star Review at GoodReads

Duff Brenna’s childhood and coming of age are as harrowing as Maxim Gorki’s, but where Gorki’s vision calls for a Soviet revolution to free underclasses from the cycle of brutality, Brenna’s celebrates our common humanity, complexity, and resilience, the revolution within. His accounts of being brutalized and loved by his stepfather are both horrific and comic. This is a memoir remarkable for its ironic acceptance of outrages....

DeWitt Henry, author of Safe Suicides and Sweet Dreams: A Family History

From Guest Review in Oronte Churm’s blog
at Inside Higher Ed, April 25, 2012

This, I think, above all, is Brenna’s grand achievement here. He is not settling old scores—and god knows there were scores he might well have wanted to settle if he’d a mind to. But no, he is exploring—unsparingly, unflinchingly, but above all fairly, with balance and breathtaking honesty—the humanity of a group of people born into and continually creating a kind of hell in which they thrash around without a clue as to how to get out.

Thomas E. Kennedy, author of 30 books, including novels, essay and story collections, literary criticism, and translation

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From a personal note to Brenna (used by permission)

Powerful and searing book.... Horrific & scary adolescence, brutal & intense.... Astonishing, anguishing, horrifying & a delicious read... those last scenes terribly moving.

Steve Kowit, author of In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop

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From ForeWord Reviews:
“a memoir that’s a truly striking accomplishment”

There are some memoirs that seem so artful in the dissection of the joys and horrors of a life that they resonate long after that last page. Duff Brenna provides just such a story.... many people recalling wrenching childhoods, his emotions surged with ferocity and he was left to ponder the truly momentous questions of life and, especially, of love. He writes “[B]ut love changes—it evolves, the purity of it becoming perverse mixtures of love and adoration, hatred and jealousy, tenderness, passion, devotion, loathing. What was left of those tumultuous emotions? I couldn’t sort it out. I still can’t sort it out.”

Even with this admission, though, Brenna provides a compelling attempt to untangle the emotional threads of his childhood. By viewing his past with such a sense of honesty and compassion, he delivers a memoir that’s a truly striking accomplishment.

—Elizabeth Millard

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